Studio Visit: David Packer, New York, New York

Just the Facts


Primary forming method
Handbuilding and slip casting

Favorite surface treatment
Commercial low-fire glazes

Primary firing method
cone 06/04

Pieces made in a year
My practice changes all the time, so it could be anywhere from one to twelve.

Favorite tool
My drawing table and computer are what I use everyday, although I also have a large mechanic’s toolbox on wheels that is essential.

This article is featured in Ceramics Monthly magazine’s November 2010 issue.
To get great content like this delivered right to your door, subscribe today!


My studio is about 500 square feet in the basement of a three-story building in Long Island City, Queens. Even though I do not have a lot of space, I have managed to put three kilns in a smaller space just outside the studio, also the basement. Initially the space was raw and it took a lot of work and paint to get it looking the way it does now; it is really important for me to be in a pristine and as empty a space as possible. In an attempt to manage the clutter and the storage concerns, I also have storage space upstairs in the same building. Long Island City is very close to Manhattan and has changed over the years from an industrial neighborhood to one that is becoming gentrified with new restaurants and galleries. At the moment, the old and the new are co-existing together, but there continues to be a lot of development.

What I like most in my studio is the privacy: when I leave I know that when I return everything will be exactly how I left it. In fact, no one else is ever in there unless I am there as well. It is also important to keep the space really clean and organized. Since I spend a lot of time there, I see no reason why the environment should not be clean and healthy.

I consider myself a sculptor who uses clay some of the time. I also use wood and found objects to make sculpture and I like to combine clay with other materials; what is important is that the idea defines the medium and not the other way around. At the moment, I have taken some painted ceramic sculptures of hearts that I made in 2007 and have been changing them. I have been drilling and sanding the clay and using auto filler and spray paint on them. Now they will hang from the ceiling and I am adding tubing and pipe to the top, to give them a more industrial feel. I am also going to have them professionally spray painted, as I want a really clean, industrial finish. Drawing, collage, and photography are also part of my practice and often I will go to the studio and not use any clay that day!

paying dues (and bills)
I have a BA in ceramics from Bristol School of Art in the UK and an MFA in studio art from Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida. I waited until my 30s to go to grad school, which worked out much better for me; since I was older, I had already had a career as an artist for 10 years, so I had a much clearer idea of what I wanted to do and accomplish. The other aspect that has helped me is teaching: I have worked at Greenwich House Pottery, the College of New Rochelle, and Western Carolina University over the years. Not only does teaching allow me to “keep my hand in,” but also I see it as dialog, a mutual exchange of ideas.

I spend 20 to 30 hours in my studio in a good week; it seems as if more and more, however, I am doing art related work on my computer at home, applying for grants and residencies. I am not sure that I like the ever increasing presence of computers in our daily lives and try to keep that concept in my mind as I make decisions. In addition to working as an artist, I am a landlord and do some freelance computer work for extra income.

I exercise most days, including walking, yoga, and going to the gym. Being an artist is physically demanding, but exercise for its own sake is really good because it allows the mind to wander. I am always amazed at how healthy many older artists are, and all I can think of is that the lifestyle—the combination of physical activity and mental satisfaction—is generally agreeable.

I work really hard to maintain my health insurance and I think it is a mistake not to have some sort of coverage. I am concerned that even with insurance it seems as if a catastrophic illness can create huge and often unmanageable bills. I am forced to have a high deductible to keep the monthly costs down. I had high hopes that the recent reform would change things for the better, but I am beginning to wonder if this will be the case. What worries me is that the corporations of America have enormous influence over the democratic process and this allows them to do whatever it is that they want, solely and exclusively to their advantage; it is as if the customer is not even part of the equation anymore.

Mostly I read contemporary fiction, usually about two books a month. I have just finished The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles, as I want to go to Morocco and now I am reading The Pregnant Widow by Martin Amis. Next on the list is Black Swan Green, by David Atlas; his book Cloud Atlas was incredible and I will probably read all that he has written in the coming months. In an attempt to be more responsible (I do not like to use the word green, especially with the ways things are marketed!), I get my books from the local library, as they have this great system whereby you can order a book and they email you when it is ready for pickup. I also read The New Yorker every week and glance at the online version of the New York Times in the morning when I first log on. I regret that I cannot spend time with the newspaper every day, but there just does not seem to be time for that anymore.

There are three things that I like to do to recharge creatively. One of the reasons that I like living in New York City is the opportunity to visit a variety of museums and galleries. I especially like the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the galleries on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, which is the new emerging gallery district.

I spend a lot of time buying fresh food and cooking it at home. I am interested in supporting and buying local food, as this is probably how we will have to live in the future.

Traveling is also important, and it is often associated with shows that I am doing. This year I have been to Wyoming and Seattle, as well as travelling internationally to the UK and Italy. Italy is an amazing destination for art, as every church it seems has something of note; the food is also incredible! I have also been to India, the last time for six months, Cambodia, Japan, Australia, and Syria. Future plans include trips to Los Angeles and Morocco. Some places I’ve visited have been so interesting, or so large, that I have to visit twice.

I like to be represented by a gallery, but also have some loyal collectors who have been with me for years. I have been with ceramic galleries, such as Garth Clark Gallery, but now prefer that my work be shown by fine art galleries or at art fairs and non-profit spaces, as I feel that my work is more appropriate for that sort of venue. I was just in a public outdoor sculpture show, “Bellwether 2010,” sponsored by the city of Bellevue in Washington, and have two shows planned for the winter: one in Miami, Florida, as part of Art Basel and one in Tallahassee,
Florida, a Florida State alumni show that will travel to NCECA in Tampa in the spring of 2011. I enjoy showing in other states as it allows me to travel and see new places.

I have a web site that functions as an archive of information. I really like the idea that there is a single place, albeit virtual, where my work is cataloged and laid out thematically. Every so often a curator will call to talk about a show and it is obvious that they have spent a lot of time looking at the site. The downside is that the site needs to be constantly changed to keep it fresh and up to date.

most valuable lesson
Don’t stop!







Comments are closed.

Enter Your Log In Credentials
This setting should only be used on your home or work computer.

Larger version of the image

Send this to a friend